My best friend recently came to visit me here in Colorado Springs, and wow, how I’ve missed her. We’ve spent the past four months separated by 1,400 miles, so having her within hugging distance was a gift. Not going to lie, I shed a few tears when I picked her up at the airport, and a few more when I dropped her back off. If you’ve ever done a long-distance relationship, whether with a significant other, family member or friend, you probably get where I’m coming from.
During the four months of separation, most of our communication was via text, FaceTime, some snail mail and lots of Marco Polos. (Marco Polo is an app that lets you send videos, and it is way better than texting. Go download it and revolutionize your long-distance relationships.)
Honestly, though, I’m not great at digital communication. Despite the hundreds of ways to connect with people digitally, I often find myself unable to muster the willpower to keep up with all my friends across all the different technological platforms.
I called one of my dearest friends after weeks of not hearing her voice. I apologized for letting so much time pass without checking up on her. She insisted that it was her fault too – phone lines go both ways. We mused over these giant gaps in communication, confused about why we would let so much time pass even though we both thought of each other often and still cared to hear about the other’s life.
This was our conclusion: exhaustion. It’s exhausting to keep up with a million different communication channels. Don’t forget to text Emma! And call Erika back! Oh, and respond to the Marco Polo that Grace left you three days ago! It’s exhausting to schedule phone calls and find blocks of time that work across time zones. Maybe 4 p.m. works for me, but it’s dinner time on the east coast.
But why is it exhausting? Even in COVID-less days, didn’t I stay in touch with a million different people? Didn’t I schedule times to hang out and catch up? Yes, but seriously, there is something about being in person that makes a difference.
I know that I’ll run into one of my friends in class. I know that I’ll see another one of my friends in the lobby before church starts. And I have that weekly walk with my other friend. Those in-person encounters include the luxury of nonverbals and the ability to connect through touch, two things that are sorely lacking in long-distance interactions.
But here’s the reality: Sometimes “in person” isn’t the reality.
With COVID-19, most relationships are long-distance now. And if these relationships have any hope of surviving this season, I’ve got to commit to the long-distance grind. I’m challenging myself to step out of my lazy, half-hearted attempts at communication. Yes, long-distance relationships take more energy and yes, they take more time. But yes, I believe that energy and time is worth it.
In just a few days I’m returning to school and will be (finally) reunited with many of my friends. Goodbye, long-distance. However, that also means saying goodbye to the friends I’ve made during my internship at Focus on the Family. These friends live in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Utah, Tennessee, Georgia…basically everywhere but close to my home in Illinois. Hello, long-distance.
While there are some days that I feel exhausted opening my phone for the umpteenth time to call, text, Marco Polo or FaceTime, I am also thankful. I am thankful for the technology that allows us to check in on each other. I am thankful for the people who care enough about me to brave and bridge the thousand-mile gaps. I am thankful for the ways that long-distance fosters intentionality and pursuit.
How are you keeping up with those who are dear but not-so-near? Tell me about your long-distance success stories!
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